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14 June 2007 / erikduval

More a parasite than a monkey…

Today and tomorrow, I am at the EDEN conference in beautiful of Napoli, Italy.

Teemu Arina opened the conference. You can find his own comments on his blog. His (very beautiful!) slides are on slideshare and thus below.

Teemu and I share quite a few characteristics: we’re both a bit … entrepeneurial, I guess. He started his company when he was sixteen. I was 25 years older when I did, but I started two companies last year πŸ˜‰ His slide 7 mentions a problem that I am also very much concerned about (see my earlier comments). Some of the further projections that Teemy made (“homo contextus”), I am a bit less certain about.

Anyway, Teemu mentioned “slow pedagogy” in his talk and that he had learned about that through a recent podcast by an Indian woman whose name he couldn’t remember. Of course, though slow pedagogy may have its merits, this was a challenge that needed a speedy response and I quickly googled “slow pedagogy podcast india”. As Teemu had mention “parasitic learning” (slide 29), I inserted two slides on slow pedagogy in my presentation (see below), and could connect nicely (I think) when I went on stage after him.

I tried to make my story as simple as possible: we need to replace the “bad problem” of search in scarce educational resources by the “good problem” of personalized suggestions from an abundance of such resources. A practical illustration of how this could look in an environment like Blackboard (slides 34-44 below) hopefully brought this closer to home. I’ll repeat here once more my appeal at the end to join us (through ARIADNE or GLOBE): more news on how this is evolving to come soon..!

BTW, my talk got blogged at and there are some comments there too – in Dutch! (Thanks!) You can find more on the conference there as well.

The session ended with Michael Graham Moore (no, not family of the other Michael Moore πŸ˜‰ ) who started with some references to The cult of the amateur, by Andrew Keen. After the parasitic learners of Teemu, Michael talked about the 10(0?) million monkeys that now all have a blog and are typing away their irrelevant nonsense on it. I was quite struck by the parallel he saw between wikipedia and Orwell’s 1984 nightmare where 2 and 2 equals 5 if the people say so.

It was good to find a dissenting voice, but I find it difficult to take this kind of remarks really serious. Remember the comparative study between Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Brittanica? Isn’t blogosphere promoting open discussion rather than Orwellian control? If someone wants to post irrelevant ideas on his blog, what problem does that create for you? In fact, what is irrelevant to you may be very relevant to others?



Leave a Comment
  1. tom wambeke / Jun 15 2007 12:26 pm

    Thanks for the very inspiring presentation. As we talked before I’m looking forward for an interesting discussion between you and Michael Moore and his comments on the open archive of monkeys. Apart from the evolutionary link I would like to dig the discussion a little beet deeper. Monkeys are making as much mistakes as Nobelprice winners since there is statistical evidence that the margin of errors in Wikipedia is as big as in Brittanica. Apart from comparing both knowledge pools we need to move the discussion further because we talk about two different models of knowledge construction with different epistemologies (role of expert -, wisdom of the crowds). Where can we find a balanced answer on the tensions between open vs. close, public versus private, issues of control, copyrights, etc…? I think you will have an interesting debate later on this day. A little ending note … TIME, a reknown magazine that elects every year a ‘person of the year’ usually picked out these very important persons (experts, nobel price winners) .. last year they chose for YOU (us, the monkeys or the parasitic learners who transform the the principle of the wisdom of the crowds into a public pool of knowledge accessible for everyone with barriers. That is why they put ‘social’ before ‘software. See you later !

  2. Steven Verjans / Jun 15 2007 3:05 pm

    I liked your presentation, Erik, although the snowflake metaphor is not quite clear, yet. But then I am just a monkey πŸ˜‰
    As for the parasitic learner: I think all traditional instructional learning parasites on the knowledge of an expert.
    As a side remark: I think Michael Moore’s presentation style towards the end of his presentation did not exceed the level of a learned monkey.

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